In the wake of former President Donald Trump’s repeated bogus claims of electoral fraud, Georgia Republican state legislators have taken aggressive measures to limit voting rights with the omnibus voting rights law SB 202. The bill, which passed in a party-line vote in the state legislature and signed into law by Gov. Brian Kemp last Thursday, March 25, is the product of a months long Republican effort to increase electoral scrutiny and security.
The provisions of the bill range from stiffening voter identification requirements to criminalizing handing out water or food to voters in line. One provision stripped the power of the Secretary of State, Brad Raffensperger, who refused to take demands from Trump to change the 2020 election results in his favor, to supervise elections, giving more power to the legislature. We must call these efforts by Republican lawmakers precisely what they are: voter suppression. Their legislation will make voting an arduous affair and harm Georgians’ ability to express themselves at the ballot box.
From the moment the legislative session began in January, Republicans in the Georgia General Assembly scrambled to usher in these voting restrictions in the name of what they called election validity. One crucial fact seems to be missing from their effort: according to numerous federal agencies, including Trump’s own Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, the 2020 election was one of the most secure in history. But Republicans barreled ahead anyway. They rammed the 95-page bill through late last Thursday in a process tainted by their recent electoral losses and unsubstantiated accusations of widespread fraud.
Many of SB 202’s initiatives would significantly undermine grassroots voter registration. Voting rights groups like the New Georgia Project and Black Voters Matter Fund worked tirelessly last year to ensure equal access to the ballot box, but voting in 2022 might be drastically different due to SB 202. The law will prevent volunteers from passing out food and water to voters waiting in long lines, impose time limits on absentee voting and allow unlimited challenges to voter registration. The latter has historically been used to intimidate voters, is disproportionately used on minorities and could enable significant racial profiling. Another sinister part of the law will limit voting rights organizations’ capacity to send out absentee ballot applications and coordinate with local elections boards, which will harm their ability to protect minority voters’ rights.
In considering avenues for dissent, Georgians ought to pressure the corporate community, as it has long benefited from the state’s business-friendly environment but failed to stand up for Georgians’ rights. Power Georgia-based companies, including Home Depot, Delta and Coca-Cola, have done little to oppose this law. These companies and the Georgia Chamber of Commerce have failed to use their considerable resources to lobby against this attack on our democratic rights.
During the signing of the bill, one moment perfectly encapsulated the dangers SB 202 poses to marginalized communities: Georgia State Patrol officers arrested and forcefully dragged State Rep. Park Cannon (D-Ga.), a Black woman, out of the Capitol for knocking on the door to the bill signing ceremony. While Kemp, flanked by six white Republican lawmakers, signed the bill that would harm marginalized communities, the Black state representative peacefully protesting outside his door was charged with two felonies. Such a scene should evoke chilling memories of Southern lawmakers’ bloody reactions to the civil rights movement of the 1960s.
Emory students, there is only one way to counter these blatant voter suppression efforts and their adverse effects on our democracy: resistance. We must maintain pressure on state lawmakers and Kemp by protesting, calling their offices and working to vote them out of office in 2022. The corporate community needs to be called upon to use their economic weight as a platform to criticize this assault on our fundamental democratic rights. We cannot allow this law to silence us. Now is the time to stand up and fight.
The above editorial represents the majority opinion of the Wheel’s Editorial Board. The Editorial Board is composed of Sahar Al-Gazzali, Viviana Barreto, Rachel Broun, Jake Busch, Sara Khan, Martin Shane Li, Sophia Ling, Demetrios Mammas, Sara Perez, Leah Woldai and Lynnea Zhang.